‘How to Get Away With Murder’ Boss on Season 4: Annalise Has to Get Her Fight Back

How to Get Away With Murder’s” third season finale may have answered the question of who killed Wes (Alfred Enoch), but there’s still much more to the story — namely, why was he killed? And how will Annalise (Viola Davis) pick up the pieces after being accused of his murder? That’s what the fourth season will set out to explore, executive producer Pete Nowalk tells Variety.

“We’re jumping a little bit in time, a month or two, which is actually a lot of time in our show, so we’ll see how things have settled a little bit for everyone,” Nowalk says. “Annalise will have had some time to figure out what she wants to do with her life now, and really the first episode is very heavy on Annalise putting her life back together and seeing what step one is for her to redeem herself.”

Here, Nowalk previews the new flash forward mystery, as well as where the fourth season will find core characters.

Annalise can be such a formidable force, but we have also seen such vulnerability from her. Where will the fourth season premiere find her?

She’s definitely been beaten down, and we’re going to watch her rise from the ashes, literally, of last season. What’s exciting about the arc, and in watching Viola Davis act it, is there’s going to be more vulnerability in digging into what she really wants for her life. But at the same time, her public-facing persona has to be bad a–. She still has to kick a– in the courtroom. She still has to be “take no prisoners.” It’s so fun to write because it’s all of these things at the same time. And it will be exhausting for Annalise because her whole life, she worked so hard to rise to this powerful position, and it’s all been gone. And if I were her, I would just phone it in and become a barista, but she has fight left in her, and it will be really fun to watch her get that fight back in the first episode.

Where does the renewed fight come from? Is she able to lean on anyone at this point?

Her mother is always this core emotional support system for her, and we’re going to see Cicely [Tyson] again. She’ll have a really big influence on Annalise moving on and putting that fight back in her. And I think that’s who Annalise is and why I love her: She’s not going to be a barista! She fought really hard, and she’s going to get back up again.

Where does Viola’s husband, Julius Tennon, fit in? Is he someone new she can lean on, or is he more of a foe to Annalise?

Julius is amazing, and he is in our premiere. He is on her side. It’s a really fun dynamic that they play, and it is surprising. You know, I’d seen him in “Lila & Eve,” and I’d spent a lot of time with him, and when we were writing the premiere, I came up with this character and told Viola if he was open to it, that’s who I’m writing. There’s a lot of his voice in this character. Sometimes when you meet people in real life, their voice just gets in your head, and it sticks.

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Do you have plans to keep him around for more than just the premiere?

You never know. It’s definitely possible. It’s left in a way that’s a little open-ended.

Even people who die on “How to Get Away With Murder” still end up on the show in flashbacks and things like that. So to that end, how much will Alfred still be a part of the show this season?

We’ve only written the first four episodes, and he’s working abroad on another show, so right now we don’t have specific plans to bring him back, but I’m really hoping it happens.

In saying that the premiere picks up a bit in the future, is that an opportunity to show characters in new or unexpected places?

Some people will be in a surprising place, but some people will just be enjoying the quiet, and we’re going to see some major changes for them over the first half of the season. But Laurel is one who a lot has changed for, and we’ll see that from the very start of the show. [It’s] a month or so later, she’ll have to come to a decision about whether she wants to have the baby or not, so we’ll answer that, too.

The audience knows Laurel’s father [Esai Morales] and family friend Dominic [Nick Gonzalez] was behind Wes’ murder, but she doesn’t. How soon will she catch on?

We never want the audience to be too ahead of the characters. In fact, I sort of love it when the characters are ahead of us. We’re doing another flash forward, of course, and that’s how we’ll be finding out a lot more about why her dad would be involved in Wes’ murder. Whether Laurel finds out about her father having killed Wes, what she’s going to do about that, that plays a big deal into our flash forward. But our question this year — the “Who killed Sam?” “Who’s under the sheet?” — is a “where?” And it’s a really big where! I can’t say anything more than that, but what I like about it is it feels different from all of the other seasons because it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a who-killed-who mystery. And all of the characters are going to be involved and active in the flash forward mystery. It’s a “where” that everyone wants the answer to.

“How to Get Away With Murder” returns to ABC on Sept. 28 at 10 p.m.

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